Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Inside Washington: Acts and scenes

Followed by Thomas Gorguissian

A reduced UN budget... and more to come

Yes, it came out on Christmas. On Sunday, December 24, 2017, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley cheered a 285 million dollar cut in the 2018 UN budget, saying: “This historic reduction in spending — in addition to many other moves towards a more efficient and accountable UN — is a big step in the right direction.” This announcement came days after more than 120 nations criticised and opposed the United States for its decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In that specific General Assembly meeting, Ambassador Haley said in her speech, “When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognised and respected. When a nation is singled out for attack in this organisation, that nation is disrespected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the United States, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege.”

The massive (more than five per cent) cut to the UN’s overall budget — which is 5.4 billion dollars — as it was explained to the media, was a result of months of negotiations between the UN and the Trump administration, ‘not related’ to the Jerusalem vote, and more cuts can be expected. Haley also reminded those listening to her welcoming statement: “The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked.” It has been reported that additional cuts will include UNESCO, climate change programmes, UNICEF and others. The US funds about 22 per cent of the UN’s annual budget. Earlier last year (2017) 600 million dollars was cut from the UN peacekeeping budget. In an op ed piece published in The Wall Street Journal, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton wrote under the title “How to Defund the UN” that few of its agencies do useful work and “American taxpayers shouldn’t pay for the many that don’t.” He suggested, “Start with the UN Human Rights Council. Though notorious for its anti-Israel bias, the organisation has never hesitated to abuse America. How many know that earlier this year the UN dispatched a special rapporteur to investigate poverty in the US? American taxpayers effectively paid a progressive professor to lecture them about how evil their country is.”

 

‘Not militarily right now, no’

Secretary of Defence James N Mattis was with reporters in an off- camera media ‘availability’ on December 17, 2017. This was after Ambassador Haley had spoken about Iran’s support for Middle Eastern arms groups — especially the Houthis in Yemen. Secretary Mattis was asked: “As head of the US military, what does that mean for our military posture in the region and for our support for allies in the region?” Secretary Mattis answered: “Well, I think what we’re trying to achieve is a stability in an unstable region right now.” After mentioning Iran’s presence in different countries, he said, “and everywhere you find turmoil, you find Iran’s hand in it. And she [Ambassador Haley] is simply exposing this, and what we are doing in that region is standing by allies and partners and we’re on one hand exposing, on the other hand helping them build their own capability to reject Iranian influence.” Then he was asked, “Do you think that requires an expanded or more emboldened response from the United States, to try to contain that activity?” Secretary Mattis answered: “Not militarily right now, no.” A follow up question came up about ‘a military action’, asking: “Is this a way of accumulating evidence in order to back up what could be a military action in the future?” Secretary Mattis responded: “No, this is the reason Ambassador Haley was there and not one of our Generals, this is a diplomatically led effort to expose to the world what Iran is up to.”

 

‘ISIS became a brand’ and ‘it’s a global campaign’

On December 21, 2017, Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, was asked about ISIS — its past, present and future. Mr McGurk said: “It used to be a very well-connected organisation being run out of Raqqa, with direct communication to Boko Haram, which then part of it split and became ISIS in Nigeria; direct communication to Libya, direct communication to Sinai, direct communication to Afghanistan.” He added, “We’ve pretty much severed a lot of that, particularly from Syria. But look, ISIS became a brand, and a lot of pre-existing terrorist groups – you’ve seen this in the Sinai, for example – start to raise the flag of ISIS, mainly to recruit foreign fighters and other things.”

McGurk also said: “But make no doubt that the defeat ISIS strategic plan that I mentioned is not an Iraq-Syria plan, it’s a global campaign plan. So we use different tools in different parts of the world. But certainly in Mindanao and in Philippines, when they popped up and tried to establish themselves, we worked very closely with Australia, with members of the coalition, with the Philippine armed forces, to root them out.” He concluded: “So this is going to go on for some time. And the main priority number one is protecting our homeland; but second, make sure that they cannot have sanctuary to recruit and attract foreign fighters.”

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